A baseball card mystery: Rich Dauer and Carlton Fisk

Rich Dauer was the American League’s version of Glenn Hubbard. He didn’t hit all that well, had little power, and couldn’t run. But he could play the fundamentals out of second base. Dauer had vacuum-suction hands, a strong arm, and that rock-solid ability to turn a double play without being dropped to the ground. In 1978, he set an American League record for second basemen by playing 86 consecutive games without an error.

At one time, the Orioles considered Dauer the next Bobby Grich. When Grich left the Orioles and signed a monster free-agent contract with the Angels, Dauer succeeded him at second base, though he did end up platooning some with the switch-hitting Billy Smith.

Dauer never had Grich’s offensive ability, nor did he have as much range in the field, but he gave the Orioles solid defensive play up the middle for nearly a decade. He was also Cal Ripken Jr.’s first full-time double play partner, teaming with the Hall of Famer to form a foundation for the Orioles’ 1983 world championship team.

Just last week, the Orioles deemed Dauer worthy of entrance into their Hall of Fame. Along with Mike Mussina, he will be officially inducted on August 25.

Now a coach with the Rockies, Dauer made a memorable appearance in Fleer’s 1982 card set. The 1982 Fleer set is often criticized for its mediocre, out-of-focus photography, but I like the set’s charming simplicity. There is a minimum of design, with just a small banner featuring the player’s name, team and position at the bottom of the card, which allows for a larger allotment of space for the actual photograph. Sometimes the less complicated the card, the better.

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Dauer’s Fleer card is one of the better action shots in the set and receives a boost from the presence of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, who is seen sliding into second base.

But I’ve always had one basic question about the card: Who is playing for the home team? Dauer’s orange jersey doesn’t give us the answer, because the Orioles wore the orange as an alternate uniform both at home and on the road.

Fisk appears to be wearing the Red Sox’ home whites, but this is clearly not Fenway Park given the absence of the “Green Monster” in the background.

The background looks like it could be Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, but there would have been no reason for the Red Sox to wear white during a regular-season road game. So maybe it’s a spring training shot from the Red Sox’s Grapefruit League site in Winter Haven, Florida.

If it is a spring training game, pinning down the game and the inning becomes problematic, if not impossible. If it’s a regular-season game from Memorial Stadium, the task at hand becomes easier. Due to the strike, the Red Sox played in Baltimore only two times in 1981, the year before the card was produced.

But wait a minute. Fisk did not play for the Red Sox in 1981; he had already departed Boston as a free agent and played the entire ‘81 season for the White Sox.

So this photo must have been taken earlier than 1981. Perhaps it was taken in 1980, when the Red Sox played seven times in Baltimore. So when exactly did this Dauer/Fisk play take place?

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Comments

  1. Don S said...

    That is Memorial Stadium in the background.  At one time the scoreboard was in Left Field.  A good shot can be found at the Fleer Sticker Project blog http://fleersticker.blogspot.com/2010/05/1971-world-series-broadcast-highlights.html

    Now to narrow down the game.  Based on Fisk’s uniform it had to be before 1979 as that is a pullover top and has the red/black/red striping on the belt.  Dauer is wearing the Oriole “Sunday Special” uniform, so I am going to guess it is a Sunday game.  A quick search of BR shows that there was a Sunday game on 9/18/77 with both Dauer and Fisk.  In the top of the 7th Fisk led off with a single and was out on a force at second base (groundout by George Scott SS-2b).  There might be another game that fits, but I stopped looking.

  2. Mike Whitaker said...

    I’m going to bow to Don S on this one – but you have me strangely tempted to subscribe to Baseball Reference :D

  3. Bruce Markusen said...

    Good find, Don. Wow, 1977. So Fleer may have used a five-year-old photograph in the 1982 set.

  4. MikeS said...

    I think it is most likely a spring training game. Which direction did memorial stadium face? This is clearly a day game and based on the shadows the sun looks to be to Dauer’s right, over the third base stands. That could help to know if it is in Baltimore.

  5. Chuck T said...

    I’m finding this post two years after previous comments. It appears that Dauer’s uniform number is 4. According to BaseballAlmanac.com, he wear No. 44 during the 1976 and 1977 seasons. After that he wore No. 25.

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